Reflections: Motherhood for Me

Something salpingitis. That’s what I remember my doctor saying to me. She was young like me, so the tears in her eyes as she told me made sense to me. But I still didn’t understand. Having children on my own would be very difficult because my fallopian tubes were blocked? I’m sorry, what do you mean exactly? I remember getting in the car and sobbing. We knew we wanted to have a family, and we had already discussed adoption if it truly wasn’t in our plan to have our own children. But I was devastated to think of the possibility.

God proved that doctor wrong and we became pregnant with Sadler in 2011. When we found out we were pregnant, I will never forget the way that I felt. I felt happier and more excited than ever before! I quickly became washed with the gift of motherhood and made my body a temple to prepare for the precious child God would bless us with.

We wanted a boy. I really wanted a boy. I even knew what I wanted to name him. I remember being in the tiny ultrasound room, my parents and Reid’s parents circled the room as we all patiently waited for the technician to tell us. When she said it was a girl…I wept. I think to this day everyone in the room except for my husband thought I was weeping tears of joy. In reality, the tears were fear and disappointment. I felt guilty for being sad that it wasn’t a boy. But deep down, I feared I wouldn’t know how to be a mother to a girl. My mother and I didn’t have the closest of relationships throughout my life, and while I love my mother dearly and am thankful for the journey we rode because it has undoubtedly led me to who and what I am today — I was scared.

Sadler Mae was born on July 12, 2012 via cesarean because she was breach. Her umbilical cord prolapsed while I was being prepped for delivery and what was a normal procedure turned into an emergency situation in the blink of an eye. My husband was still in the hall being scrubbed in when they made the incision to get her out. The anesthesia hadn’t fully kicked in. I wanted my husband’s hand to hold. I wanted his eyes to look into. Within a few seconds, he stood before me, and I don’t think either of us was breathing. We just locked eyes and cried as the doctors and nurses worked to get Sadler out of my body. She was lodged under my ribcage and it took lots of force and unexpected positioning to get her out. And then, the sweetest most anticipated sound my ears ever did wait to hear. She cried. And I breathed. And my life was changed forever.

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In January of 2015 I turned 33 and for a birthday gift, someone very special to me took me to see a spiritual advisor. I had been to one once before as a teenager, and honestly didn’t know what to expect as we walked in. One of the things that came up during our conversation was whether or not I would be blessed with another child. Reid and I knew we wanted another child, and I really still wanted to have a son. I had dreamt of my baby Dax. I had seen his face before and held him in my arms. So when I told this to the spiritual advisor that day, I felt the look in her eye but wouldn’t fully understand until a few months later. She gently smiled and told me that “soon enough” I would be pregnant again and reminded me to be patient with God’s plan.

I found out I was pregnant with another baby girl in June of 2015 and Everly Jean was born on December 27. She and I rocked out an amazing vaginal delivery, which was something I wanted more than I even realized until it actually happened. It was intense and long and difficult and painful. But there is no doubt in my mind that the second this child exited my body and joined our family earth side, a spiritual gate opened within my soul and my life became bright with colors I’d never seen before.

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I’ve thought often about my conversation with the spiritual advisor that day, and after connecting the dots in some of my own intuition I now believe that we did get our baby Dax. He was living inside me at some point in my life. However, God had Everly held for us and she was waiting. It wasn’t in the plan for baby Dax to be mine on Earth. But it was most certainly his divine plan to give me Everly.

I am weeping as I type this, because I am filled with so much emotion through this realization. We often think we have it all figured out, but we are small in the grand scheme of everything. God has a bigger plan for us all, and doctor’s don’t know everything. Life is a gift and a miracle.

 

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I will celebrate being a mother every day that I’m alive. I enjoyed a beautiful Mother’s Day weekend with my two daughters and husband picking strawberries and just loving on each other. It’s the little things that reset my perspective of my purpose. I’m grateful for these moments.

Amen. Namaste.

img_1134-1I grew up in church. It was a Southern Baptist church; the pews were wooden with fabric cushion. The hymnals were blue, and they were sporadically placed along the backs of each pew in attached wooden shelves. There were little pencils in little holes next to bigger little holes that were there to hold your communion cup. There were cards for first-time guests to fill out, and there were envelopes for tithing.

Church was a place we just automatically went. My great-grandparents and/or grandparents generally took me along with them on Wednesday nights. First we would go eat at either K&W or the O’Henry Grill, and then I would go to the Youth service while they went in “big church”. I remember being shy in youth group because I was so little in comparison to the “big” kids.

I remember years before that attending Vacation Bible School and making crafts out of popsicle sticks and coloring pictures with Bible verses written on them. I remember being in a play as a 7-year-old and thinking I was the coolest kid on the planet because I was acting. I remember around this same time, singing a solo on Sunday morning and being terrified when the time came in the music for me to start, and instead of singing I ran straight off the stage and into my cousin Sissy’s lap as tears rolled down my cheeks. I remember lots of softball games on Friday nights watching my dad play. I remember covered dish lunches in the Fellowship Hall and that I always had to find what Mama Dot or Granny brought because I knew it was likely one of my favorites. I remember laying across Mama Dot’s lap during the church sermon and getting some of the best back scratches the world’s ever known. I remember being baptized by Pastor Bud and even remember what I wore that day.

I have lots of memories of church growing up, but none of them really include much about God. As I grew into an adult, I drifted away from the familiar place church offered me and my family. I found myself choosing sleep over sermons on Sunday mornings, often to nurse a hangover or just catch up from being exhausted. People in the church “family” started to ask questions. Gossip set in. My parents (finally) divorced. My life fell apart… and church didn’t make the cut for what was important to me at that time.

As I went off to college, not much changed. I made good grades, held sometimes two jobs at a time while taking a full-load of courses at NC State. I made some great friends – some of whom are my very dearest friends today – but church and God wasn’t something that was talked about much in my circle of friends. If it was, I don’t remember. Which only tells me it wasn’t impactful if it did indeed happen.

Almost a year to the day after I graduated from college in December 2006, I went on the first date with my husband. We had known each other since 1994 but never dated throughout high school. Our first date turned into moving in together, which turned into engagement and marriage and 2 beautiful daughters. But at first, church wasn’t something we did together. It wasn’t something we did apart. It wasn’t anything that we even talked about — at first.

We would go to church with my grandparents for the Easter service once in a while, and I recall attending his niece’s christening about 7 years ago. But we didn’t have a church that we attended regularly and we didn’t spend a great deal of time talking about our plans to change that. We were content in our lives with what we had and what we were doing and who we spent our time with. We didn’t pray. We didn’t talk about God. We just lived our lives.

It wasn’t until this past Fall that I made the connection. I decided to read a book called The Power of Now that was a turning-point in my life. This book talked about being present in each moment that we are living and breathing, and to actually pay attention to each breath that we take; it was a reminder to “stop and smell the roses” sometimes. This book was so much more for me than I can even begin to describe here… I remember not being able to put it down, and I had not read a book from start to finish in almost a decade. I remember wanting to tell everyone about it, and I tried. But I quickly learned that it was not something everyone wanted to hear. Not everyone wants to hear about a riveting self-help book that I read. Have you lost your mind, Candice? was the translation of the look on their faces when I shared it with some friends and loved ones. But that’s just the thing, I felt just the opposite: almost as if I had found my mind. Or at least myself.

I have been visiting an incredible hot yoga studio for about a year now and was able to relate to the points the author made about paying attention to your breath. Each time I would go to yoga after reading this book, I found myself channeling deeper into my awareness of my breath, and it became easier each time. I started noticing my breathing while at home sitting on the couch or cooking dinner. I started to notice when I had found my innermost feelings of peace and stillness. I noticed and embraced the quiet in my mind and in my body. I was thankful for the yoga teachers I have been led by in my practice as of late who have reminded me to just breathe.

I realized that the feeling I felt of warmth and white: that was God. And it was then that I began to connect the dots between my version of universe God and church God.  I realized that they were one in the same. I realized that the inner stillness I had found and recently tapped into was God within me. I started to literally see things differently, with more color, and with more appreciation of the beauty within everything around me. Once a lens that only reflected black and white images, I now see so much color.

Toward the end of last year, we visited a new church and my heart was open to accept everything that it had to offer. I found my inner stillness and peace and tears streamed down my face as my sweet friend poured her heart out through song on the stage. The walls were black, the lights were dark and the spirit of God was in that room. I was so moved. I was inspired to keep digging within to find God within me, and I am happy to say we’ve been back several Sunday mornings since this fist visit and not much has changed. Same tears. Same stillness and peace. Same good music that makes me cry every.single.time.

This week marks the one-year-anniversary of my return to work after maternity leave when Everly was born. Only one year ago I was in such a different place spiritually and emotionally. I couldn’t (wouldn’t) even engage in conversation with you about God. I didn’t want to. I was going through the motions to earn a paycheck and daydreamed about what life would be like in another version of it. I looked happy, but I wasn’t. I knew there was so much more to be gained but couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

Today I am happy to tell you that I fully accept that I am nothing without God. He is at work within me and I rest my case in arguing that I have a better way to do this. I am at full mercy of  letting go of fear and worry and anxiety in order to live fulfilled and am in awe of what God has planned for me. I start each day with personal time devoted to my relationship with God and appreciate the difference it has made in my life.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”      

Proverbs 3:5-6

I hope and pray that I may always be able to stay mindful of something as simple as breathing. I pray that I can teach my girls to slow down and enjoy life each day rather than being busy in the process. May you find the color in your world and see it brightly. Namaste. And, Amen.

 

 

 

I Am Randall

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We have been watching This is Us for several weeks now. We binge-watched the first half of season 1 in a couple of nights because we were hooked after the first episode. For those of you who don’t watch this show, if you are reading this blog you are on the Internet and I imagine you’ve seen someone talk about it at least. It has only been on for this first season and is currently running. Although I am not a big TV watcher and do not have much to compare this statement to, I do believe the writers of this NBC drama got something very right with this one.

The show tells the story of triplets (two of the three pictured here –no they are not biological siblings). The one on the right is Randall. He was dropped off on a firehouse door step in the 1970s by his  father, his crackhead mother having passed away right after he was born just a few days prior. His father left him in a cardboard box on the doorstep and it wasn’t long before a fireman found him and took him to the local hospital. Meanwhile, in the same hospital a woman gave birth to triplets; one of the three babies was stillborn. As fate would have it, a baby in a box was brought to the hospital that day, so the baby in the box became part of the triplets and joined the family that day, too. Their parents called them “The Big Three”.

In this picture, the one on the left is Kevin. He is one of the triplets born this day. His sister, Kate (not pictured here) is the other biological sibling.  The writers of the show did a remarkable job weaving the relationships of these three very different, yet strikingly similar individuals. The show utilizes flashbacks in every episode to deeper explain the life of Randall’s birth parents and the relationship of the triplets’ parents as newlyweds and through their lifetime.

When I watch this show, I find so many relatable themes and appreciate the messages hidden in the dialogue and dynamics between each character. I usually start crying within the first few minutes of watching, and have been moved by not just one or two characters on the show, but almost all of them at some point or another. It really is a feel-good show and I have enjoyed watching it each week.

The picture above is from a scene from last week’s episode. I won’t spoil any of the details of the episode in the event you haven’t watched it and think perhaps you will, but Randall suffered a panic attack in this episode. In this picture, his brother comforts him during his attack. As I watched this episode, my heart felt it would nearly implode with empathy as a wave of realization surged over me: AM WAS RANDALL.

I had my very first panic attack when I was in college at NC State. I was driving down Hillsborough Street on my way to campus for an exam. I had studied for the exam, and knew I would do well on it. But I was worried and stressed out about how tired I was and couldn’t stop thinking about rent that was due and life just simply seemed to overwhelm me at that very moment. Suddenly my chest tightened and I seemed to gasp for breath and I felt more afraid than I had ever felt before. I called my daddy and one of the only things I remember him repeating to me was, “Breathe, Candice. Just breathe.” He told me to look around in my car for a paper bag or something to help me breathe more easily. Of course I had nothing to assist with this, so I just pulled over and cried. And cried. And cried.

These have continued throughout my life, the most recent one being earlier this year. Yet for some reason I am able to say today that I suspect (and am so very hopeful) that it may just be the last one I will ever endure. I have grown as a person since my last panic attack — spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally — I have tapped into a part of myself that was guarded with lock and key. I have learned things about myself that were often hard to accept, yet rewarding to recognize in the essence of beauty. I have let go of fears, worry and resentment that unconsciously weighed me down. I have given my life back to God and accepted that I am not meant to control what happens to me, as my fate is written and was already unfolding. I have laid down my boxing gloves in the fight against myself and feel better and stronger and more capable than ever before.

As I look at this picture I am overwhelmed with pain for Randall and can empathize so wholeheartedly with his place in this moment. Yes, I realize it’s a TV show but this is real life, folks. People really do suffer from these terrible things: panic attack, mental breakdown, stress-induced trauma, nervous breakdown — call it what you will, but make it a point to be aware of your loved ones and offer support when you are able. Be understanding and don’t ever throw rocks. Support is critical to the delicate souls who suffer with these types of challenges in life and often times a genuine smile and a hug can make a really big difference in their day.

I share stories like this about myself in hopes of being a beacon of light for someone. Yes, I may make myself vulnerable to judgment and criticism, but I feel the overflow from my heart as I tell my stories and dwell on the possibility of positive impact rather than the fear of negative judgement. Through self-reflection, a whole lot of patience and the grace of God I strive daily to keep these fears at bay. Of course I have setbacks and I don’t always succeed, but I refuse to give up. Life is breathtakingly beautiful and it took me 35 years to realize this. However, this morning I was reminded that it doesn’t matter when you start, it only matters how you finish…

Choose Joy.